11.30.2006

dice

We saw a very good movie last night called "Owning Mahowny". The ubiquitous Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, an ordinary bank officer with a secret. Mahowny has a serious gambling addiction, and when he finds himself way over his head with his bookie, he initiates a new gamble: a bank fraud.

The nature of his addiction demands that his new-found wealth be gambled away, and with each embezzlement, the stakes grow higher. The story is based on the book Stung by Gary Stephen Ross, the true story of what turned out to be the largest bank fraud perpetrated by one person in Canadian history. The movie is also rare in that it actually takes place in Toronto. Toronto plays itself for a change.

"Owning Mahowny" is a fascinating view into addiction, a subject Allan and I talk about a lot in many contexts. We both have a glimmer of the addictive personality - long since grappled with and in no danger of ruining our lives, but enough to make us perhaps more empathetic towards addiction than people who write it off as moral weakness.

Gambling is the strangest of compulsions to me, the one farthest from my own experience, and Hoffman's portrayal is riveting. Gambling is his single-minded obsession - nothing matters but the gambling itself. Like an alcoholic who cannot stop drinking until he passes out, Mahowny cannot leave the table until there is nothing left to play. There are some scenes - momentary triumph and inevitable loss - that are heartbreaking.

"Owning Mahowny" cleverly intertwines the theme of gambling in many less obvious threads. There's Mahowny at the table, and of course at the bank, where his embezzlement becomes increasingly elaborate, and his bluffs increasingly dangerous. (The bank scenes are brilliant; you hold your breath waiting to see if this will be the time he'll finally get caught.) But many other people are gambling, in ways small and large, literally and metaphorically. This, too, makes you think about addiction: what distinguishes the addict from the normal? In this movie, it's not a slippery slope. It's a very bright line indeed.

11.29.2006

motion

It's amazing to me how the dance with Québécois Canadians continues, and is never finished.

The recent motion recognizing Québécois as a nation within Canada, brought by the Tories and passed overwhelmingly by all parties, is a very shrewd political move indeed. It knocks the separatist wind out of Giles Duceppe's sails, pre-empting the Bloc's own motion that would also declare Quebecers a nation, but without reference to a united Canada. And since both the Conservatives and the Liberals are scrapping for Bloc votes, it seems the most clever form of pandering. Perhaps Bloc voters are too smart to fall for it, but it certainly can't hurt.

My own thoughts about Quebec have changed tremendously since coming to Canada. As an American reading about the issue in the US, I didn't understand it, or perhaps understood it in the wrong terms. In early 2005, I asked, If Quebecers want to leave Canada, why shouldn't Canada just let them go? I didn't understand that most Quebecers don't want to separate. And I certainly didn't understand what secession would mean to Canada.

Not long after coming here, I started to understand the issue of national unity. It didn't hurt that there was an election so soon after we arrived. That ratcheted up my understanding of almost everything around here.

I began to see the Québécois separatist movement as yet another form of the divisive ethnic nationalism that we see all over the world. Ethnic identity and ethnic pride are positive things. Multicultural, tolerant Canada has room enough for all your ethnic identity (in spite of some British-oriented, conservative Canadians who whine about all the hyphens). But ethnic identity has to exist within a united country, or the whole thing will fall apart.

It also wasn't long after arriving that I saw how the threat of separatism is used politically, and how powerful it is. No wonder some Albertans murmur about secession. It buys a lot of political power.

Much of the reaction to the current Québécois motion seems misplaced to me. The province of Quebec isn't getting any special treatment. The motion is a recognition of the Québécois people as having a distinct identity - no matter where they live. Just as I am Jewish, and a First Nations person is a member of their nation, no matter where we live, the French Canadian people have a distinct identity, whether they live in Quebec or BC or Saskatchewan. That the Québécois wanted or needed special recognition of that in the House of Commons is a function of history, and of political reality. That recognition doesn't confer special rights or privileges, and it doesn't hurt national unity. In fact, it does quite the opposite.

What scares me is how very shrewd Harper was to do this - and how foolish the Liberals would have been to debate the Québécois question at their convention, as they had announced. I was very pleased to see dropped the idea. Smart Tories plus dumb Liberals is not an equation I want to see solved.

11.28.2006

famous

Not so very long ago, I realized that everyone is Canadian. To quote myself, back in January:
Last night we watched the CBC Comedy special "Comedy Gold", which traces the most famous comedy to come out of Canada. (The second part is tonight.) It was neat to see the behind-the-scenes Canadian connections that I wasn't aware of, and, of course, old clips - David Steinberg's controversial writing for the Smothers Brothers, Dan Ackroyd's Bass-O-Matic, Kids In The Hall in their club days. The older material like Wayne And Shuster was new to us, but I'd love to see a whole Shakespearean Baseball Game. (I'm sure you'll all be posting links to help me.)

I'm always telling Allan that Canada has produced a disproportionate share of comedians, actors and entertainers, given the country's small population. This is generally expressed by the statement, "Everyone is Canadian". (Example: A cartoon version of Michael J. Fox appears on The Simpsons. I point and say, "Canadian," followed by, "See? Everyone is Canadian.") Allan doesn't believe me.

That is, until last night. Enter "Hee Haw". Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I regarded Hee Haw as a foreign ambassador from some strange land "out there". But Allan grew up "out there", and like millions of Americans, he watched Hee Haw. When he learned (last night) that the show was created by two Canadians, and that this guy is Canadian, he changed his mind: "You're right! Everyone is Canadian!"
Canadians love to list famous Canadians; if you don't know this already, Google "famous Canadians".

My own list is called I Didn't Know That Person Is Canadian. This week's addition: Elizabeth Arden, born Florence Nightingale Graham in Woodbridge, Ontario.

The great Florence Nightingale was not Canadian.

bitch

Belinda Stronach changed her hair colour. Stop the presses.

I. Am. So. Tired. Of. This.

Antonia Zerbisias in today's Star:
Politics is a dog-eat-dog world — but why do media bitch-slap women?

This month and last, on Vancouver radio and again in a newspaper interview, Norman Spector laid the B-word on Belinda Stronach, a twice-elected MP (Newmarket-Aurora).

You'd think a man with a c.v. like Spector's — Globe and Mail columnist, blogger for Maclean's, former publisher of the Jerusalem Post — could come up with a better epithet.

But he insisted it was apt.

"I think it's the perfect choice of word that the Oxford English dictionary describes as 'malicious or treacherous,'" he told the Globe's Gloria Galloway. "So I think as an analyst of politics, I chose the right word."

Well, not according to my Oxford: it leads off with "female dog" and never mentions "treacherous" at all.

(Last week Spector served a notice of libel on Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham after she wrote that she couldn't find "treacherous" in her Oxford either. For the record, the Sun so far refuses to retract or to apologize for the column.)

A few things.

First: Isn't a dog — male, female or fixed — loyal and, by definition, not treacherous?

Second: Spector called Stronach that shortly after her former boyfriend Peter MacKay, minister of Foreign Affairs, reportedly called her a "dog" in the House of Commons. He also claimed that Stronach was the home wrecker in Tie Domi's marriage, as if he had insight into that dispute.

Third: Spector's comment was followed by a particularly crude joke by former Alberta premier Ralph Klein about Stronach.

Think dog. Think bone. Think bitch in heat.

Forget that married male politicians have been known to carry on affairs. Stronach is free and single, but her sex life is fair game for public scrutiny.

So too is her hair.

How else to explain that large colour photo of her last week in the Globe that served no apparent purpose except to present her as a newly tinted brunette?

"A dye-hard campaigner" read the caption, depicting her in London, Ont., where she was helping Liberal candidate Glen Pearson get out the vote for yesterday's federal by-election.

No mention was made of the other contenders: Conservative Dianne Haskett, the NDP's Megan Walker and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

"He was running against three women, but he got top billing from the Globe because of Belinda Stronach dying her hair," says NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), who herself was compared to a dog by a senior Liberal official during the last election campaign. "And you wonder why only 21 per cent of the MPs in the House of Commons are women?"

Indeed, according to Equal Voice, which fights to get more women into government, Canada, with just 64 women in Parliament, ranks 42nd in the world among democracies in terms of women's national political representation.

In the U.S., where they're celebrating the record number of women elected this month, the picture isn't any better.

In January, 87 women members will take a mere 16 per cent of the 535 congressional seats.

Still, California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, expected to be voted in as Speaker of the House — which would make her second in line to replace the president, after Vice-President Dick Cheney, the highest office ever attained by a woman — has been dubbed the "Wicked Witch of the West" by pundits.

How long before New York Senator Hillary Clinton is "Wicked Witch of the East"?

Women can only hope that Pelosi and Clinton drop the House on their critics.

Former Liberal MP, now Mississauga city councillor Carolyn Parrish, has felt the media's scorn for outspoken women.

"There's a double standard," she says. "Rarely if ever do they talk about the appearance of males. Rarely if ever do they pay any attention to their loss of cool, their off-colour language.

"There are totally different yardsticks on performance. Tough women are only acceptable when they're grandmothers like (Mississauga mayor) Hazel McCallion or (former British prime minister Margaret) Thatcher."

Just look at how ousted Conservative MP Garth Turner is faring.

He's a rebel, a hero to many. He's not getting the shabby treatment Parrish did, even though her actions reflected the sentiments of many Canadians.

Understand that many women don't have a problem with the B-word. We wear "bitch" pins. We buy "bitch" T-shirts. We've made Sherry Argov's Why Men Love Bitches one of the biggest bestselling relationship books ever.

But when we think bitch, we think of strong women, women who won't take it lying down.

Trouble is, lying down is exactly how too many men in the media want us to take it.
Please, if your only reaction is to say you are not surprised and this is not new: refrain. This blog is not called Things Laura Is Surprised By. That would be a very short read indeed. Bigotry, including sexism, does not surprise me. Nevertheless, it irritates the crap outta me.

And I am totally fucking sick of the sexist double-standard for women in politics. I just want to shout: grow up already.

11.27.2006

peace

Reason Number 53,802 I left the United States.

But who's counting.

comedy

As well documented on wmtc, Allan and I appear to be the only people in Canada who don't care for Rick Mercer**. Every time we happen to see a bit of him on TV, our opinions are re-confirmed. However, we do agree with the crowd when it comes to "Corner Gas". We both like it a lot, especially me.

I've come to think of "Corner Gas" as a rural "Seinfeld": a bunch of funny characters tackling everyday life in their little corner of the world, spending far too much time thinking about the appropriateness of everyday interactions. It's not a perfect one-to-one correspondence (thank goodness) but it strikes me as the same sort of show.

I was recently chatting with friend of wmtc M@ about "Seinfeld", and he remarked that New Yorkers must get a lot more out of the show than other viewers - more references, more layers of meaning. It's true. In the early and best seasons, there are scenes I wonder how anyone outside of New York can even understand. (It's similar, in that respect, to certain Woody Allen movies.) M@ mentioned that a friend of his who grew up in Saskatchewan feels the same way about "Corner Gas". I wonder what layers of meaning I'm not seeing?

So "Corner Gas" is a big hit in Canada, but do you think people in Iraq will like it?
Canada's contribution to the invasion of Iraq, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the attempted restoration of Iraq to normalcy has finally happened.

We're not sending troops. We're sending Corner Gas.

On Friday, CTV announced that Corner Gas had secured a distribution deal for syndication in the United States and internationally: "Corner Gas: Coming soon to 70-million U.S. homes and in countries across five continents including Australia, Iraq, Finland and more."

Yes, Iraq is on the list. We are amused. But will the Iraqis find it funny? Lord knows, they've got enough to deal with. Still, from the perspective of this great country of Canada, it is a fine and delicious irony.
The writer gives some analysis of the success of "Corner Gas," and dispels a few myths about the show. He mentions that the international broadcast will continue to run without a laugh track, thank goodness. Will US audiences know when to laugh?



** No need to discuss. We're all talked out about this. Update: see comments.

11.26.2006

tala

Introducing... Tala!!

On our way home, we met the newest addition to our family, our fifth dog overall, the beautiful and brilliant Tala. Since we're about to move, we didn't take her home. That will have to wait until we're a little settled in our new place, and return from a very special anniversary celebration trip we're taking in January. It works out well, because Tala is currently living with a trainer who is giving us a headstart on her socialization.

Here's the backstory.

Allan and I had already fallen in love with several dogs on Petfinder.com. It's incredibly easy to do. There are always a zillion animals who need homes, and whatever your favourite species and look, someone is waiting for you. I've been unpleasantly surprised that most people in Mississauga (and, I think, Toronto) have dogs that were obviously purchased from breeders. In New York City, rescues are much more common. At the risk of offending many readers, I am strongly opposed to breeding dogs for sale, no matter how responsibly it's supposedly done. (Let's not argue about it, ok? It's too upsetting for me.)

Back on Petfinder, we picked out a female Shepherd-Husky mix in our area - that's what our first dog was, and we're very partial to the look and the personality mix. The policy of the local rescue group is not to hold dogs under any circumstances. Every time a dog is placed for adoption, that foster home is available for a dog currently stuck in a shelter - the faster the turnover, the better.

I understand this completely. The shelter is death row. Even in a no-kill shelter, the longer a dog languishes there, the less socialized it will be and the harder it will be to find her a permanent home. So I absolutely understood that they couldn't hold the dog for us, I think it's a great policy, but I wanted her! A week later she was gone from Petfinder: taken. Good. Great. I know. But I wanted her!

I told myself to stop looking at dogs until we could bring one home. Then I would email Allan five more links to five more possibilities. OK, last one, this time I mean it, but look at this one, ohmygoodness look at this one, stop stop stop, just one more, last one, starting now.

Then I started looking at cute dogs that we like, but not necessarily in our area. Just looking. Searching on both German Shepherd and Husky, I found Tala. I had no idea where she was located. She could have been anywhere.

I sent her link (take that page down! she's taken!) to Allan. Subject line: "where is churchville new york?". His reply: "I don't know, but that's where we're going!"

Allan discovered Churchville is just outside of Rochester, in western New York State. Just on the other side of Lake Ontario.

Next question, will they hold a dog for the right family?

Rescue Person's answer: no problem. However, come meet her first, with your other dog.

Our answer: we're driving right by you next week.

We weren't able to arrange it for the day we drove down, so our whole Thanksgiving visit was suffused with expectation of meeting Tala on the way home. We announced we are adopting a new dog, and most people (everyone?) in our family knows what that means in our lives. We put her Petfinder page on everyone's laptop and gazed lovingly as if she were already ours.

Then yesterday, on our way home, we made a short detour off the Thruway into beautiful farm country to meet her.

The rescue groups I'm familiar with are networks of volunteers who provide loving foster homes for rescues. A team of coordinators screen prospective families, test shelter dogs for temperament issues, pull dogs out of shelters, and so forth. Whether they are general dog rescue with no regard to breed, or breed-specific rescue, this is the only way I've seen it done.

But RP in Churchville is the foster home - for the entire area. RP is part of a Siberian Husky breed rescue network (and they're the good kind of breed rescue - they take mixes, too). She works with a counterpart in New York City, one in Ohio, one in Tennessee, and so forth.

The license plates on RP's and Mr RP's SUVs: HSKYSVRS and HSKYRESQRS. They have five acres of land, with more than one acre secured with stockade fencing. In the basement, in beautiful custom-made kennel crates, were 35 Huskies and Husky mixes - each one sweet, beautiful, and desirous of our attention, each one rescued from abuse and certain death, each one given medical care, food, love, family, training, and re-socialized for a future family.

It didn't seem appropriate to take pictures, so I can only try to picture it for you: the howls and barks, the white-flag tails waving, the ears flattened with joy as we gave each one attention, the snouts poking through the crate bars to kiss us. Thirty-five names, thirty-five stories (some already had homes, and were just boarding for the holiday), and another thirty-five waiting to take their place when there's room. And this not counting the six "personal" dogs who live upstairs.

Let me tell you, it was intense. And we recognized Tala immediately. She is a sweetheart!

We didn't bring Cody in the basement - she would have had a heart attack. But finally, after tours and stories and dramatic delay, RP finally let us bring Tala outside to play with Cody in the backyard.

At first RP wasn't too keen on matching us with Tala. She felt Cody is too old for the company of a young, energetic dog; she felt there would be dominance issues; she tried to steer us towards some slightly older males.

Allan and I both felt RP was making too much of it, and misreading Cody, or possibly it was just her shtick. Cody and Tala got along exactly as we predicted, following Cody's completely predictable pattern: she was intimidated and put off at first, then relaxed and warmed up. When she felt threatened, she asserted herself with a few hoarse barks, then trotted away. Tala also behaved as we expected a friendly young dog to do. She was playful, curious, and insistent, not at all aggressive, and when Cody told her to scram, she backed off. It was beautiful.

We walked them together on leashes, and it was uneventful. We hugged and kissed Tala, and Cody wandered off by herself - also completely predictable. She was never jealous.

RP emphasized the importance of setting up Cody as the dominant dog. She said (over and over) that Tala will challenge Cody's position and then Cody will have to assert herself and it could be ugly. But we are very experienced dog people - and most importantly, very experienced with Cody, including her life with two other dogs. We know what will happen. Tala will take over. She will become Cody's alpha. It doesn't matter who gets there first, it doesn't matter who's older. Cody is the Bottom Dog. Tala is bright and energetic and will be happy to be the alpha, and Cody will be happy to let her.

What matters in this scenario is that Tala will be submissive to us, that she will recognize us as the super-alphas. She shows all signs of being a quick study and eager to please, and we know how to help a new dog adapt to a new home. Long ago, our first dog nearly ruined my life by assuming the alpha position over me. After we learned how to correct that - and although she continued to test me her entire life - it would never be a problem again.

We made a donation towards Tala's care for the next two months, and we somehow said goodbye and dragged ourselves away. Having a young bundle of energy again will be a huge change for us! So will having boundless affection and love, again. I can't wait.

meeting tala 08
Tala! She's wearing a gift from her future parents.

More Tala photos here. Expect to be subjected to many more.

thanks

Our Thanksgiving trip was truly wonderful. We visited with family in various combinations, talked, laughed, played, ate fabulous food, got caught up on the themes of everyone's lives, and in general had a lot of fun.

I feel tremendously fortunate to enjoy the company of my family so much. I didn't grow up in a particularly happy family, and our current warmth, caring, love - and best of all, like - for each other is something I value more than I can express.

On the drive home, I was thinking about why it's so much fun to see my family now. First, the family has improved a lot with the absences of two people. One is my father, who was a terrible person riddled with serious emotional issues and beset by undiagnosed mental illness. Even though my mother left him when I was a young adult (after decades of marriage horror), and even though I was estranged from him (my choice) for many years, his death brought a huge relief and unburdening for me.

Another addition by subtraction is the absence of a horrible brother-in-law and his even more disgusting family. Getting rid of them was the best present my sister ever gave us.

On the positive side, all my siblings and sibs-in-law are happy with themselves and in good places with their lives. All our marriages (whether legal or common-law) are thriving. This makes for happy times.

The next generation - the ones I always call "the kids" although they are all young adults - is doing really well. The older ones are all exploring and expanding their lives in fascinating ways. There's so much talent in that crew, I wonder how I am related to them. The younger ones are working things through and seem happy, and on secure footing.

My mom, well, she's just great. I've always been super lucky in the mom department.

And all of these are people I like, respect and admire. We really enjoy each other's company. What more could anyone want in a family?

thanks nj 11
the next generation

11.23.2006

results

Results are in for the Canadian Blog Awards.

Congratulations to our blog-friend Idealistic Pragmatist for running away with the Best Post category. Her post "Jack Layton's sinister mind control experiment" buried the competition. Very cool!

I'm sorry I didn't realize that my blog-friend Andrea's colouring outside the lines was up for Best Photo/Art Blog until a few days before voting ended. She's one of my favourite artists and I would have given her votes aplenty.

Allan made it to Round Two, placing third in the Best Sports Blog category. I'm thrilled! And, I readily admit, a tiny bit envious. Although I was trying not to care, I was disappointed that wmtc didn't make the second round in any of the three categories in which it was nominated. I'm generally not a very competitive person, but when it comes to writing, well, that's where my ego lives. Oh well. Many thanks to anyone who voted for wmtc.

Round two voting begins Saturday; expect a reminder. Let's get out the vote for The Joy Of Sox and I/P!

Happy Thanksgiving to US readers.

11.20.2006

nj

We're off to New Jersey for a few days.

I'm psyched to see my family, especially all our nephews and nieces. Cody will be overwhelmed with joy. As a special bonus, my friend NN will touch down for breakfast with me in the suburbs.

And guess what? On the way home, we're meeting someone who may become our new dog! I don't want to say too much in case it doesn't work out. If it does, expect too much information.

11.19.2006

wet

I've been reading a lot about the violent weather in BC, and thinking of friends of wmtc who may be effected.

Of course, if they don't have electricity, they can't log in to tell us. But I'd love to get a first-hand report when things return to normal. Wrye? Cin? Jen? Andrea? Andrea?

ssod

Search strings of the day:
drive car uhaul permanent resident moving canada

medical examination clinics by canadian Immigration in Malaysia

reasons to love New York City [yeah!]

insurance requirements basement apartment canada mississauga

antiwar who did not move to canada

what time does the summerhill lcbo open on sundays
Hint: try the LCBO website.

When I switch to Blogger Beta and label all my posts, I should have a category SSOD.

comparison

After Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were elected, less than five months after we moved to Canada, I was besieged with questions about how this affected our decision to emigrate. Some of these were of the wingnut variety - ha ha, what are you gonna do now, move to France? - which display total ignorance, about Canada, about the US, about us. But many questions were legitimate concerns from progressive Americans worried that Canada was no longer a safe haven from US-style madness.

I blogged about this a lot, including posting an excellent piece by John Nichols, an American writer who covers Canadian politics. (Worth reading.)

Now that the Democrats have finally managed to capitalize on Republican incompetence and scandal, and overcome vote-rigging, many people here have asked me if this changes the picture.

Putting aside that my unhappiness with the US goes back 25 years - putting aside that I voted Democrat only locally or occasionally nationally - putting aside that we love it in Canada, and spent thousands of dollars and years of our lives trying to get here - there's a fundamental misperception going on here.

There's a tendency - on both sides of the border - to equate the Canadian Conservative Party with the Republicans and the Liberals with the Democrats. Most Canadians I know think Hillary Clinton is very liberal. Most Americans I know think Stephen Harper is the Canadian George Bush.

I get tired of repeating myself over and over. So I'm grateful to Idealistic Pragmatist for saving me the trouble. She's done the homework, and can offer the proof.

Ms. I Pragmatist has compared Stephen Harper and Hillary Clinton on five issues: military intervention in the Middle East, anti-terrorism security, health care, campaign finance reform, and same-sex marriage. On most issues, they are identical. On some, Harper is significantly farther to the left.

Idealistic Pragmatist has anticipated your caveats and complaints, and she's addressed them all. For example:
Now, I can hear some of you sputtering that this isn't really a fair comparison. Stephen Harper is currently moving a progressive country further right, you say, while a potential President Hillary Clinton would move a conservative country further left. If left to their own devices, you argue, Harper would almost certainly come up with far more conservative policies than he's presented to the country in recent years, and Clinton would surge left and make all sorts of radical changes. [My note: we've seen absolutely no evidence, ever, that Clinton would do this.] This may or may not be true--we can't exactly peer inside their respective heads--but sure, there's certainly a chance that it is.

But that only confirms the point I was trying to make when I made my original statement about the positions they each occupy on the political spectrum. In Canada, even a true-blue Conservative like Stephen Harper has to face up to the reality of a country that's decidedly to the left of him and modify his preferred policies accordingly. And in the U.S., the furthest left their current top Democratic presidential candidate is willing to go is still to the right of the most conservative government Canada has had in a long, long time. Believe me, I'm anything but happy with Harper and Co.'s sharp right turn for Canada, and I will certainly continue to criticize his policies in my blog. But the fact is that without a majority government--and possibly even then--he's still further left than most of the U.S. Democrats, including their current frontrunner for the presidential nomination.
I thank I/P for this truly brilliant post. If you haven't seen it yet, please go read it right now.

P.S. You can vote for Idealistic Pragmatist for Best Progressive Blog.

P.P.S. The taglines are a happy coincidence.

11.18.2006

disgrace

British MP George Galloway, long outspoken against the US-led occupation and invasion of Iraq, will have some strong words for Canadians tonight. Galloway is in Canada to speak to audiences in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
If Canada wants to be perceived as a force for peace in the world, it must withdraw troops from Afghanistan, repair ties with the Palestinians and let American war resisters seek refuge here, says British MP George Galloway. "Canada cannot be described as neutral," the maverick politician told the Toronto Star in a preview of the message he'll deliver tonight to a Toronto audience.

"Of course it's not playing as pernicious a role as Britain but neither is it seen in the theatres of conflict as benign as Canadian people like to think it is.

"You're killing people in Afghanistan, which is a problem in itself, and it's compounded by the fact that by you killing them in Afghanistan, you're releasing the Americans to go and kill people in Iraq," said Galloway, one of the most outspoken critics on the war in Iraq. . . .

Canada's Afghan mission, which he calls an "illegitimate military occupation," involves 2,500 troops stationed there and has killed 43 Canadians.

It is an "an absolute scandalous disgrace," that Canadians are "fighting for democracy in Afghanistan while starving Palestinians because they democratically elected a government (Canada) does not like."

Galloway's comments stem from Canada's decision earlier this year to cut funding to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority.

That meant a suspension of $7.3 million, nearly one-third of the $25 million a year Canada spends on aid in the West Bank and Gaza.

And Canada's poor record on granting war resisters refugee status dispels the myth that Canada is a haven, critics say. According to the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto, 32 Americans have applied for refugee status in Canada.

A few have been withdrawn but all that have proceeded to the Immigration and Refugee Board have been denied.

Galloway pulled no punches when discussing Britain and the United States's war on Iraq, which has grown "incomparably worse" and is sending Iraq "down the slope to total disintegration." And if the political climate in Lebanon continues to heat up it could plunge that country into another civil war, he said.

"All these flashpoints, all these powder kegs have all got fuses burning furiously towards new and bigger explosions," said Galloway, adding the war against terror is simply generating more terror.

Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq would "drain the swamp of hatred" that has fuelled terror attacks in the West. But instead, he said, "we're watering it with new blood every day."
When Galloway speaks tonight, I hope the Liberals will be listening. If they choose someone other than Michael Ignatieff as their leader, and then win the next election - and if we make enough noise - perhaps we will see some change.

divide

Last week I quoted at length from the introduction to Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush by Pierre Berton. Here's more of the same. This was written in 1972 for the revised edition of the book.
The differing behaviour of the two military forces during the stampede - the American infantry companies and the Canadian Mounted police - gives a further insight into Canadian and American attitudes towards law, order, freedom and anarchy. The American style was to stand aside and let the civilians work out matters for themselves even at risk of inefficiency, chaos, and bloodshed. The Canadian style was to interfere at every step of the way in the interests of order, harmony and the protection of life and property.

During the entire stampede winter, with one brief exception, the United States military held themselves aloof from events in Skagway. The commissioner pocketed public funds; the deputy marshal worked hand in glove with gangsters; men were shot, robbed, and cheated; and the town was under the thrall of an engaging but unscrupulous confidence man who was even allowed to raise a personal army. Skagway was permitted to solve its own problems in the approved American frontier style. In the end, a vigilante committee was formed, the traditional shoot-out took place, and the dictator was violently removed from the scene. Only when the mob threatened to lynch one of the gang did the infantry step in to stop further bloodshed. But previous lynchings, hangings and whippings had taken place on both American trails without interference from the authorities.

On the Canadian side of the passes, conditions were totally different. Here the soldiers were also policemen, appointed from above in the British colonial tradition. Their job was to maintain order, for it has seemed to be a Canadian quality to opt for order before freedom. The Canadians accepted the benevolent dictatorship of the Mounted Police as a later generation accepted the strictures of the War Measures Act in Quebec. Safety and security, order and harmony - these are qualities that Canadians prize more highly than their neighbours, in spite of all the talk of "law and order" south of the border. It is no accident that we have more per capita money safely invested in banks and insurance than any other civilized nation; the influence of the Loyalists and the Scots (who control so many of our institutions, educational and financial) has made us a prudent race. "Welfare" is a word that has always smacked of authoritarianism to the American individualist; "security" was for years the object of propaganda attacks by American entrepreneurs. There was very little security in Skagway during the stampeded winter, but on the Canadian side, packs loaded with nuggets could be left for a fortnight on the trail without being touched and boats could travel for five hundred miles through unknown waters and be reasonably sure of reaching their destinations because the Mounties, like stern fathers, were on hand to protect the boatmen from themselves. The Americans were often irked by this paternalism. At the Whitehorse Rapids, when Steele laid down the law and refused to allow them to take their own boats through, some of them protested aloud. The scene, which is almost Biblical in its intensity, could scarcely occurred on the American side of the border, where every citizen considered he had the God-given right to drown himself if he wished.

. . . .

Dawson was also a gunless town, virtually devoid of violence. This is one of the several points of confusion about the Klondike that has bedeviled the American media. Writers and fact and fiction and of motion picture and television scripts have never been able to get it into their heads that the right to carry a gun, of which Americans are so proud, has never been recognized on our side of the border. It is hard for Americans to realize that the Klondike strike took place on Canadian soil (letters still arrive, as they did in my day, addressed "Dawson City, Alaska") and, when they do realize it, even harder for them to accept the fact that our customs and our traditions differ so markedly from their own.

Shortly after Klondike was published in the United States, an American company purchased the television rights and proceeded to launch a series supposedly based on the incidents in the book. The original idea was to have an American frontier marshal play the central figure - until I explained to the production people that Canadians did not elect or even appoint frontier marshals. An alternative suggestion was mooted: the central character would be a "frontier marshal type," elected by the miners of Dawson City to bring law and order to the Klondike. It became necessary then to explain that the Canadian government not only sent about forty Mounted Policemen to patrol the streets of Dawson but also prudently followed this up with a Yukon Field Force of more than two hundred soldiers. The television company finally decided to move the action out of Dawson and into Skagway, Alaska, where the myth of the American frontier could once again be acted out in all its familiar variations. The Canadian aspects of the tale were ignored but perhaps, in retrospect, that was for the best.
* * * *

From the You'll Be Criticized No Matter What You Do Department, a few readers took exception to my enjoyment of Pierre Berton. Don't worry. I know that all history is written with a point of view and never without bias. I don't believe any historian writes The Truth with a capital T - not even my hero Howard Zinn.

But being educated in US, I have no background in Canadian history, and I want to learn. I enjoy Berton's writing. He has a great talent for illuminating the little details that bring a scene to life. The writing simply sparkles on the page. I've also read that his scholarship was excellent and his basic facts and story lines are to be trusted. I don't need a medal for wanting to learn about the history of my new country, but damn, I don't need to be slammed for it, either.

Back when we were still in New York, Allan asked those early wmtc readers if there was a Canadian equivalent of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. This is a famous re-telling of American history from the points of view that were omitted from the Official Story - the history of slave rebellion, of native resistance, labour organizing, civil rights. It's an unraveling of propaganda, a witness to people's movements, and a testament to the power of what organized people can accomplish.

We never found out if there is a Canadian equivalent. Canada's place in the world being so different than the US's, perhaps its history is less in need of such an antidote. But every nation has its myths and propaganda. Does anyone know if there is a "Canadian Howard Zinn"?

what i'm reading

I haven't had a chance to delve into my latest Pierre Berton tome, because I had to read something else first. When my niece E was here in August, she left a book that I was supposed to read and return to her over (US) Thanksgiving - which is coming right up.

So I read Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald. It's a travel and discovery book, about an Australian woman's experiences living in India. I was reluctant to read it, but E, who lived in India for six months, told me she had been reluctant, but then loved the book.

The writer was reluctant, too. She didn't even want to be in India, but ended up embracing it and all its bizarre incongruities. It's a very good book - funny, honest and revealing. Macdonald, a very good writer, takes you through her own transformation from horrified skeptic to acceptance and understanding. If you're interested in India and like travel books, you would probably enjoy this a lot.

My niece E - whose mother is friend of wmtc "mkk" - describes herself as madly in love with India. I can't say that after reading Holy Cow I'm any more inclined to travel there, but I will say this: don't read this book while you're eating.

11.17.2006

awards, part 2

Look what Allan just found. Scroll down to Best Sports Blog. There's our Redsock!

Unlike wmtc in the crowded Best Blog field, The Joy of Sox has got to be the best in its category. Got to be.

Round one voting ends November 21. You can vote once every day.

I'm just saying.

transactions

Our new place doesn't have a washer and dryer - the tenants have always brought their own. That certainly seems odd to us, but the house was great in almost every way, including lower rent, so we decided it wasn't a deal-breaker.

I normally don't buy anything used, but in this case, any washer-dryer we'd be using in a rented house would be used anyway, and we don't want to make a huge investment, so it seemed logical.

Turns out there are dozens of people in the GTA selling washers and dryers on Craigslist. We had our pick of several. Also through Craigslist, we hired a guy with a van to transport it for us. The whole deal, including transportation, came to $300. We've also found dog-walkers on Craigslist. Craigslist is so convenient, and it's everywhere.

I'm usually on the other side of these transactions. In our last months in New York, I sold tons of little things on eBay, a great way to earn a bit of cash and get rid of junk (junk being in the eye of the beholder).

Then just before we moved, I gave away a lot of great stuff on Freecycle - a couch, some very old furniture, some air conditioners. Professional long-distance movers charge by weight, so when it came to stuff that was old and kind of beat up, there was good incentive to buy new in Canada. And through Freecycle, your stuff goes to someone who needs it, rather than the first person to spot it on the curb. I've Freecycled a few things here, too. There are tons of Freecycle communities in Canada. The one in Mississauga is very active.

The few things I'm getting rid of now, though, I won't Freecycle. I spent way too much money on beautiful fabric window shades, thinking we'd be in this house a long time, and needing something for the oddly-sized windows. I totally love these shades and it's killing me to part with them, so no way I'm giving them away. But they'd be a good deal for someone on Craigslist who might just have the same weird-sized windows, and if I could make a bit of the money back, I'd feel better.

Has anyone ever used Sell.com?

11.16.2006

distortion

Here's a good example of why I find it so difficult to trust any mainstream media.

On the front page of today's Toronto Star, there's a story about former US Presidential hopeful Howard Dean being invited to deliver the keynote address at the Liberal Party convention.

I agree that it's not a smart choice. If the Conservatives chose an American speaker, the Liberals would (rightly) be all over them, exploiting their ties to the US. However, that's not my problem with the story.

In the first paragraph, Dean is described as a "political brawler," which was once true, but certainly is no longer. He's a full-fledged member of the Democratic flock now. This man will not be brawling any time soon. Skimming down, waiting for the inevitable reference to the infamous scream, I find: "But some are greeting the scheduled appearance of the failed U.S. presidential hopeful, famous for his on-air scream, with resentment."

Those of us who remember how the crazed media brought down Dean's campaign will recall that the scream wasn't meant to be on-air, and that the scream - which the public heard more than 900 times in four days - was re-engineered to sound louder and crazier than it was.

Later in the story, the Star says: "He ultimately lost the race, in large part because the media captured a screaming rant he delivered to his backers after the Iowa Democratic caucuses."

The media did "capture it," that part is accurate. But Dean's speech was not "a screaming rant". It was a pep rally, delivered to a gathering of young volunteers who had busted their asses for Dean. He was giving them a pep talk, saying thank you, and shouting above the crowd noise. It was meant to be heard by those ears, in that context. It was grossly distorted, and purposely used to end Dean's bid for the Democratic nomination - which surely would have ended anyway.

Dean was a maverick who skirted the gatekeepers, using new media to reach people directly, and the mainstream media could not allow him to continue. He was also too direct and too liberal for the Democrats. He never would have won the nomination anyway (although his campaign succeeded in forcing the other candidates to address issues from a more liberal point of view).

So The Scream was convenient, and it was exploited, and overplayed beyond anything anyone had ever seen in campaign coverage, and that worked.

And here's a story, nearly three years later, describing Dean as delivering a screaming rant in Iowa. Which he did not. But that's the way the media has enshrined it, and that's the way it will be remembered.

When a little detail like that jumps out at me about an event that I remember first-hand, it makes me wonder about the presentation of events I don't remember or couldn't see. Are they portrayed accurately? Can I trust the sound bite that they've been reduced to?

final

You know what sucks about death? It's so final.

No matter how much you miss your loved one, no matter how much your heart aches to look in their eyes, to put your arms around them, you never will.

I know some people believe otherwise, but to me, that's a fantasy designed to lessen the pain.

11.15.2006

five

Making good on last year's high court decision, the National Assembly of South Africa has passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.

The post-apartheid South African constitution was the first ever to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Homosexuality is still illegal in many African nations, including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana. From what I've read, being openly gay in South Africa is still a nightmare. But perhaps it just got a little easier, and at least the law is on the side of equality.

I don't need to point out the sad irony of South Africa outstripping TGNOTFOTE in the civil rights department. Apartheid was abolished in South Africa only 20 years ago. Jim Crow was abolished in the US about 40 years ago, and South Africa is already several steps ahead.

The South African law brings the number of countries that recognize same-sex marriage to five, following the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Spain. That's five more than there were ten years ago. How many will there by ten years from now? Hopefully so many we won't be able to remember them all. Onward!

awards

Voting starts today on the Canadian Blog Awards. It seems like kind of a ridiculous effort at this point. Look at the huge number of blogs that have been nominated. You'd have to take a week off work to spend serious time with all the candidates. It was flattering to be among the nominees when there were 20 blogs listed, but now, well, it's a little silly.

I like to be recognized as much as the next blogger, but I'm going to try not pay attention to this.

Of course you're all still welcome to vote for wmtc. Just because I don't want to pay attention to the awards, doesn't mean you can't.

11.14.2006

yesterday

I'd like to leave yesterday's post as the main thread a while longer. I've added some comments to generate more discussion.

11.13.2006

paranoia

Here's a topic I've been avoiding. I want to hear your opinions about this, and I'm going to try to stay out of the discussion, although I make no promises, being a blabbermouth and all.

The subject is Deep Integration, or North American Union, or harmonization, or whatever you want to call it: the alleged secret plan that is already in place to merge Mexico, Canada and the U.S. If you're not familiar with this concept, check here and here.

You'll notice that this blog does not sport a "No Deep Integration" button as many of my sister Americans-to-Canada blogs do. I've never been able to take this movement seriously.

I fully understand why we wouldn't want a North American Union. Canada has always feared being swallowed up by the United States, and, historically, that fear is well justified. (Just as ask anyone who used to live in the part of Mexico that's now Texas, or the part of Canada that is now Oregon. Well, you can't ask them, because they're dead. But some 19th Century maps will illustrate the idea.)

There's a set of Canadians, and Americans watching Canada from the US, who believe this threat to be real, and imminent. I, however, don't see any modern movement towards it. Just because the Fraser Institute coughs up some phlegm, doesn't mean Canada's going to choke on it. I don't fear free trade - although I want labour and the environment to be protected. Sovreignity and autonomy are important, but we live in a globlal, international world, and every movement towards promoting economic interdependence is not the coming of the New World Order.

But perhaps I am missing a big clue, or misreading the clues I do see. I don't want to have my head in the sand if this is an actual, rather than exaggerated or imagined, threat.

I've been emboldened to raise this topic based on what has happened since the last federal election. There was a lot of hysteria about Stephen Harper's Conservatives, both here in Canada and among liberals in the U.S. He was going to privatize the health care system, abolish same-sex marriage, abolish legal abortion, embroil Canada is foreign wars. He was, in short, a Canadian George Bush. In fact he was supposedly controlled by Bush, a US puppet, and his second election with a strong majority government would be a fait accompli, just you wait.

I believed this was a gross misreading of the situation, and I said so at the time. Many wmtc readers agreed, others stormed off in a huff.

Now, the Harper Conservatives are not my choice of government, but they are hardly the US-style neo-cons that many fearmongers claimed. More importantly, they are not going to cruise to majority government. No one can predict the future, but that outcome seems highly unlikely.

This experience buried any trepidation I once had about commenting on Canadian politics and government, the I'm-new-here-what-do-I-know feeling. I don't pretend to understand it all, and I'm still asking a lot of questions, but I'm not clueless. And I don't see North American Union as the gathering storm on the horizon.

Am I wrong?

If you think it's a real threat, can you present some evidence? Why does the Canadian media not pay any attention to it? Why is it not even an issue here? The Canadian media is very different than the US media. They don't ignore important issues. But they ignore this. Any idea why?

I'm not - please pay attention - I'm not asking you to explain why Deep Integration would be bad news for Canada. No need for campaign speeches here. I'm asking: Do you think it's actually happening? Why or why not?

memorial

A group of New Yorkers, many of them originally from the Dominican Republic, remembered their own September 11 this weekend, on November 12. American Airlines Flight 587 crashed that day in 2001, just after taking off from JFK airport, in an area of Queens called The Rockaways.

The flight was bound for Santo Domingo; most of the passengers were Dominican, many from our neighbourhood in upper Manhattan. All 260 people on board, and five on the ground, were killed. The Rockaways, home to many firefighters, had suffered devastating losses only two months earlier.

Allan and I remember the event very clearly, as it was the day we were leaving for Ireland. That morning, as we were packing for our evening flight, the airport car service called and told us the airport was closed. We turned on the TV and learned why. It was impossible not to think it was another terrorist attack.

After some discussion and a conversation with Aer Lingus, we decided that if the airport opened for departures, we were going. It did, and we did.

JFK was like a ghost town - completely empty. The check-in staff all looked shell-shocked, eyes puffy and red from crying. As we took off, we could see the blinking lights from the crash scene below us. This was the only time in my life I was ever afraid to fly. I remember thinking, I want to see my dogs again, please please please, I want to see my dogs again. The captain made a reassuring announcement, and when we reached altitude, I started breathing again.

When we landed in Dublin, the crash was on the front page of all the papers there.

11.12.2006

milestones

I feel I should comment on the appointment of the first female Speaker of the House. I'm glad to see it: the highest-ranking woman ever elected in the US. Pelosi is steadfastly pro-choice, she voted against the homophobic marriage bill, against the anti-immigrant fence and she supports gun control. On the other hand, she voted for the so-called Patriot Act, and she started opposing the war only when it was politically safe to do so. She's about as liberal as the Democrats get these days, and I hope she does a good job as Speaker.

Another milestone, long-time "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley has died. He was only 65; he had leukemia. This man was really, really good at his job. I admired him.

Someone asked why I didn't note the passing of former Texas governor Ann Richards. It's because I have very mixed feelings about her. Richards was a dynamo, a powerful woman and a feminist, and it's easy to enjoy her ready wit. There's no doubt she did some good things for Texas. However, she presided over the executions of 49 people, including two minors and two people with mentally disabilities. Those numbers may pale in comparison to Moron's 152 executions, but each was a human being, each killed by the government. Richards opted for political expediency over justice. Like the authors of this article, I ask, how a person who did this be rightfully called a progressive? That's why I couldn't join the chorus praising her when she died.

awol

The US army is moving forward with its court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada.

Kyle Snyder, still AWOL, continues to speak out, even though he risks arrest and imprisonment.

Stay updated and learn how you can support these and other war resisters at Courage To Resist.

half-cocked

One of my favourite local columnists is the Toronto Star's Jim Coyle. I wanted to point out two of his recent columns, both dealing with the same general theme.

In the first, Coyle looks behind the most recent flap about Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, and finds, lo and behold, what surely must be the world's oldest and most widespread bigotry.
In the aftermath of a dispute about whether or not Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay had disparaged Stronach — his former lover — as a dog during an exchange in the Commons, Spector reportedly said on a Vancouver radio station: "I think she's a bitch. It's as simple as that.

"And I think that 90 per cent of men would probably say she's a bitch for the way she's broken up Tie Domi's home and the way she dumped Peter MacKay."

Spector said the issue of MacKay's alleged insult received more attention than it merited because "half the press gallery now are women, and women find this very offensive."

Later, he reportedly defended these remarks on the grounds that the Oxford English Dictionary defines bitch as "malicious" or "treacherous," that Stronach allegedly was this in leaving the Conservative party for the Liberals, and that he was speaking not as a partisan of any party but as an "analyst."

Well, you'll have to put this space in the 10 per cent.

For starters, it's interesting to consider where this sort of savage "analysis" was when male politicians crossed the floor or when male politicians too numerous to list have found themselves entangled in messy affairs. At a minimum, it would appear a slight double standard was at work.

Frankly, I carry no brief for Belinda Stronach. (The rich are different from you and me.) But of one thing there can be no doubt. And that was where responsibility rested in the matter of Tie Domi's home.

Belinda Stronach was not married when her relationship with the former Toronto Maple Leaf allegedly began. Tie Domi was. Belinda Stronach made no solemn undertakings to Leanne Domi. Tie Domi had. Belinda Stronach had no obligation to Tie Domi's children to safeguard them from hurt and harm. Tie Domi did.

Tie Domi — not Belinda Stronach — had full responsibility for maintaining his marriage and his home. The choice was his.

Spector's "analysis" — the notion that Stronach had no right to leave the relationship with MacKay when she chose, the proposition that she had more obligation to Domi's marriage and family than the man himself — comes perilously close to just the sort of proprietorial rage and creepy self-pity used by every man who ever stalked, threatened or brutalized a former partner.

This year, Jack Holland's book A Brief History of Misogyny was published posthumously. Holland died of cancer in 2004 just after finishing the manuscript. His book was subtitled "the world's oldest prejudice." And it's hard to say otherwise. Holland was apparently appalled, his daughter Jenny wrote in a foreword, by the astonishing list of crimes committed through the ages against women by their husbands, fathers, neighbours and rulers.

Through history, he found half the world's population chronically oppressed and brutalized by the other. And he found misogyny in the words of Greek thinkers, from Christian ascetics of the third century to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, from the back streets of 19th-century London to the freeways of modern Los Angeles and, as we have known too locally and too recently, classrooms where young women and girls study.

Holland didn't resort to calling names at the perpetrators. He did what might be termed some "analysis."

On the depressing list of hatreds that human beings feel for each other, he said, "none other than misogyny involves the profound need and desires that most men have for women. Hatred co-exists with desire in a peculiar way. This is what makes misogyny so complex: It involves a man's conflict with himself.

"Indeed, for the most part, the conflict is not even recognized."
The second column deals with a subset of this oldest prejudice, a figure of speech that I detest and try not to use: the use of the word "balls" to mean courage, gumption, nerve or inner strength. Some people who possess those qualities also possess testicles, but a look around our world will confirm that when it comes to courage and strength, testicles are not required. Indeed, sometimes it seems they are a hindrance.
It was impossible to read the numerous splendid profiles of Toronto mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield published in the last few days without noticing a recurring theme.

She was, it was said, "a tough nut." She was "a tomboy in pearls." She apparently works on car engines herself. She successfully cut it, prior to entering politics, in the macho business of sales.

It was in that manly realm that she reportedly developed "an elephant hide." And it was in the same rock-ribbed environment she absorbed the teaching that "no excuse is good enough."

From such testosterone-soaked testimonials, it was probably only a short jump to the eye-popping declaration made by not one, but two women journalists around town.

No credible male challenger would take on Mayor David Miller, one wrote. "Only Pitfield had the balls to do it."

The Leaside councillor doesn't have a chance in the Nov. 13 vote, another said, "but does at least have balls" to have made a fight of it.

Now, it cannot be entirely without meaning that political discourse is conducted these days in language that makes Ms. Pitfield, a long-shot mother of four, sound less a sacrificial lamb than a sacrificial ram.

Recent analysis in the United States has attributed the long-running success of the Republicans there to their masterful control of the terms of (such as it is) debate.

A liberal, say, is no longer someone willing merely to entertain both sides of any discussion. Rather, they are, by definition, detestable latte-sipping, foreign-car driving, draft-dodging, flag-burning, same-sex marrying, tax-hiking weenies.

Frame the terms of the argument and you usually win. And if the only females who are portrayed as capable of cutting it in the upper echelons of politics are both figuratively and now physiologically indistinguishable from men, well, women lose. If they bother to enter such a preposterous and puerile contest at all.

Surely, it does not bode well locally for the goal of attracting more women to politics and improving the tone, depth and quality of political debate when the best that can be said of an aspiring female candidate is that she both acts like a man and, in fact, owns what was once regarded as a key part of that gender's defining hardware.

It is probably a measure of the depths to which political conversation has sunk — all the more remarkable given the chaos that male leaders have through the generations created — that this non-gender-specific "ballsiness," as it were, is so frequently trotted out as a measure of high praise.

One chap is said to have "balls of steel." Television satirist Stephen Colbert is said to have "balls as big as church bells."

Even those who go off half-cocked on some reckless and ill-advised adventure or other, and end up in the inevitable ruin, can generally count on the consoling nod that "at least he has balls."

It's hard to say precisely when this business began of balls having more merit than brains, or of it being considered praise of the highest order — even from women — to say that even those categorically without them possess them.
If there's a figure of speech I hate more than this, it's the opposite: the use of words for female genitalia to mean weakness. I know I display my own prejudice when I say that the common usage of "pussy" and "balls" often gets it ass-backwards.

Jim Coyle's columns here and here.

11.11.2006

media

If you are an American considering emigrating to Canada, and the outcome of the recent election may affect your decision, and you would like to be interviewed on public radio, please email me. Thanks.

beta

The new version of Blogger is now available to blogs with FTP, that is, non-blogspot addresses. I guess that means I'm switching.

Beta folks, was the changeover time-consuming? I wonder if I should wait until my current round of writing assignments is finished.

11.11

Work for peace.

11.10.2006

trapped

The story of the young deer with his head stuck in a plastic Halloween bucket makes me so sad.

This poor creature, trapped in a piece of human trash, unable to eat or drink, growing weaker and more distressed with every passing hour - it seems so cruel. I hope so much that someone can help him. Hunting season starts in a few days, and he's wearing a neon sign. That is, if he doesn't die of thirst first.

I feel like a teenage girl blogging about something like this. But then, my inner teenager is never very far away. Or maybe it's no different than when the whole world is riveted by a child who has fallen down a well. It stirs our compassion in a very basic way.

On this Google search, you can see a photo of the poor guy.

cats, part 2

A reader just sent me this, which you may enjoy.

More importantly, I just learned that Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas's grandson!! Come on, people, you're falling down on the job here!

I didn't realize that Shirley Douglas, Tommy Douglas's daughter, is the same Shirley Douglas that's a Canadian actor, and that she was married to Donald Sutherland. That Kiefer has one cool pedigree.

I'm too busy at work today to write, but I have something cooking that is sure to get the conversation rolling.

11.09.2006

hooky

Yesterday we had tickets for the last play in our Soulpepper subscription, Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

I can't tell you how it was, because we didn't go. At the last minute, we blew off the play and went out for lunch and a drink - and it was just what we needed. Somehow the play felt like an obligation instead of a treat. Not going felt like skipping school! I was just sorry I didn't know sooner, because I could have given someone the tickets.

The subscription was fun, and I'm glad we did it, but we're not going to renew. I'm interested in CanStage, but their 2007 season does not appeal to me. Chances are we'll just see a play here and there.

I think instead I need to put more music back in our lives. We used to go to shows and concerts all the time, but I think our baseball obsession pushed that out of the way.

cats

Now this is what I call a great coincidence. Last night we watched "Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story". I caught a bit of it earlier this year when it was on CBC, but had to wait for the DVD to see the whole thing, and I wanted Allan to see it, too.

What could be more fitting, the day after the US threw out some white cats and replaced them with some black cats than to hear, again, that brilliant, funny and stirring speech known as "Mouseland".

Tommy Douglas makes me proud of Canada. That he is revered here, and remembered as a hero, makes me proud of Canada. Tommy Douglas reminds me of what government can do if we elect the right people; he reminds me of why I'm a socialist.

We have to safeguard his legacy.

Here's what I wrote about this in the spring.

And here's "Mouseland":

This is the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played. Were born and died. And they lived much as you and I do. They even had a parliament. And every four years they had an election. They used to walk to the polls and cast their ballot. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. They got a ride for the next four years afterward too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day, all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big black fat cats.

Now if you think it's strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats. You just look at the history of Canada for the last ninety years and maybe you'll see they weren't any stupider than we are.

Now I am not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows; they conducted the government with dignity. They passed good laws. That is, laws that were good for cats.

But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much physical effort.

All the laws were good laws for cats. But oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it anymore they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse the polls.

They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats. The white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said all that Mouseland needs is more vision. They said the trouble with Mouseland is those round mouse holes we've got. If you put us in we'll establish square mouse holes. And they did. And the square mouse holes were twice as big as the round mouse holes. And now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn't take that anymore they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. And then they went back to the white cats, and then to the black, they even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up with up cats with spots on them. They were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but they ate like a cat.

You see my friends the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cats. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats they naturally look after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends watch out for the little fellow with an idea. He said to the other mice. "Look fellows why do we keep electing a government made up of cats, why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" Oh, they said, he's a Bolshevik. So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can't lock up an idea.
On this Saskatchewan NDP website, you can hear a recording of it, too.

11.08.2006

comment

Yes, good things happened. Scumbucket Rick Santorum has to find a new job. New York State will benefit from having Elliot Spitzer at the helm. Likewise some districts in Arizona, Rhode Island, Florida, New Hampshire and Kansas.

Now I'm reminded of something a friend said to me when Clinton defeated Bush I in 1992. I was very liberal then, but less left than I am now. In those days I voted my conscience in the primaries and a straight Democrat ticket in the election. In response to my jubilation, my friend said, "I'm very happy he's out of a job. Now we'll watch things not change."

Also, the results of yesterday's election do not prove that the election was fair. Serious problems were reported with electronic voting machines all over the country. Typically things will look fine on election day. It can take weeks or months for the truth to surface; the longer the results stand, the heavier the cloak of false legitimacy. Finally, no one said the Republican machine is perfect or infallible. If voter anger managed to overcome dirty tricks in some states, that's a good thing. But it doesn't mean the dirty tricks weren't there. The US still does not have a safe, fair, verifiable vote. That's the main thing.

* * * *

In other news, I was very sorry to see Brooke Ellison lost. It was a valiant effort.

11.07.2006

reflection

I'm very big on anniversaries. I don't do it on purpose, I just find myself thinking, It was this time last year...

Often my body knows the anniversary is coming before I'm conscious of it. Years ago, I would start feeling anxious, begin to have sleep disturbances, and it would occur to me that the anniversary of the assault was approaching. (This is very common for trauma survivors.)

But usually it's just once - one year. The anniversary brings an opportunity to remember, to reflect on what's happened since, to check the current path, maybe to mourn or rejoice.

This time last year, it was our last weeks with Buster, although we didn't know it.

Walking Cody in the morning, I've been thinking of B, and starting to cry, almost every day.

Two images keep coming to me.

One, a cold, rainy day in December. I kneel down, open my arms, and - bleeding, hungry, dying - alone, baffled, desperate - he trusts me. He puts his head down, creeps towards me. I put my arms around him and hold him against me.

That's how our six-year odyssey with this special creature began. His many issues and illnesses made him the focus of our lives. We almost lost him right before we moved to Canada, but survived that battle, only to lose him ten weeks later.

The other image that keeps returning is at the vet's office, his final moments. He sits in front of me, strangely calm, probably blind, almost certainly in pain. I put my arms around him, hold him close, ask his forgiveness.

Past experience tells me that once we're past the actual anniversary of Buster's death, I'll feel better. But this is a tough week.

On a happier note, we're ready to adopt another dog! We're just waiting until we're in the new place.

11.06.2006

fix

Here we go... Right on time, they're telling us the polls are favouring the Republicans...
Tomorrow's Outcome Hinges on Our Vigilance at the Polls
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman [all emphasis mine]

On Election Day 2006, the American people will almost certainly vote to give the Democratic Party one or both houses of Congress.

We will vote to restore at least some of the checks and balances written into the Constitution of the United States. We will vote to end the reign of terror and error imposed on the nation and world since the stolen election of 2000. State by state, governorships and legislatures should return to the opposition party.

True to form, the corporate media is already starting to tell us that the polls are starting to slip back to the Republicans. This is the classic precursor to a coming fix.

In fact, all the instincts of credible students of American politics, indicate a massive shift away from the GOP. Anyone familiar with the history of the American electorate can be reasonably certain that the issues of war, deficits, economy, environment, scandal, sexual imposition and more will overwhelmingly favor a traditional rejection of the party in power, and then some.

But in 2006, the party in power has installed a nationwide system of election theft. And the outcome of tomorrow's election may depend on the ability of the grassroots American citizenry to overcome this infernal machine.

The GOP engine of vote theft is built primarily on two pillars:
Read more here.

The writers are more hopeful at the American people's ability to overcome the fix than I am. But then, they have to be.

tuesday, part 3

Recent comments about Kerry's apology and the Democrats joining the pile-on have led me to an addendum to my I'm-not-voting post.

Many Americans living in Canada have said that they will continue voting, and many people, Canadians and Americans alike, feel that I should, too.

I'm wondering, would you feel that way if I didn't vote Democrat?

Because I wouldn't.

Unless there was someone like Russ Feingold or the late Paul Wellstone running, I couldn't.

I wonder if that changes the equation for anyone.

apologies

Apparently John Kerry said something, but he didn't say it quite correctly, and someone thought it was insulting to the troops, and called for an apology. I wouldn't know anything about this, but some of my favourite columnists have responded to the latest tempest in a teacup, by pointing to the real storm.

Imagine. John Kerry should apologize to the troops. John Kerry.

I'm speechless. I'll let two people, much better writers than I, speak for me.
The Apologist
by Ralph Nader

The baying pack of belligerent draft dodgers - Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Limbaugh - were out in verbal force this week against John Kerry. The Senator miscued a joke about Bush by reading without the "us" in the line, "You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." The missing of the "us" word gave the messianic militarists an opening to demand that Kerry apologize to the U.S. troops for his "insulting" and "shameful" remarks.

Interesting isn't it, how a mis-reading of a word can be seen as cause for apology when thousands of illegal and destructive deeds and tortures constitute the Bush regime's "business as usual."

There will likely be no apologies from Bush/Cheney for putting U.S. soldiers into a fabricated war-quagmire - a disastrous, costly boomeranging invasion. But to set the record straight about who should apologize, here are on the ground reasons for nine Bush/Cheney mea culpas.

1. FAILURE TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE BODY ARMOR AND TRUCK ARMOR IN A TIMELY FASHION.
A Pentagon study found that "as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor," according to a New York Times report. Hundreds of soldiers died who could have been saved.

The Washington Post reported "that in some places in Iraq the U.S. military could provide only one Interceptor vest with protective plates for every three U.S. soldiers."

2. FAILURE TO ACCURATELY REPORT CASUALTIES.
The Bush administration has undercounted injuries to soldiers in Iraq to hold down opposition to the war. Injuries that were not incurred in the middle of battle are not part of the official casualty count by the Bush Administration. Cases of diseases, such as thousands of Sand Fly afflictions, are not even counted. This disrespects these soldiers and their families to bolster a cynical political calculation.

3. FAILURE TO PROVIDE SUFFICIENT TROOP STRENGTH IN IRAQ
The Washington Times reports that retired military leaders who served in Iraq said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "ignored advice for more troops, failed to make a post- invasion plan or equip troops properly and hid information from the public." "I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Army Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste told the panel. Mr. Batiste, a self-described Republican who has been criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld for months, said the secretary "forbade military planners from developing plans for securing a postwar Iraq" and helped create the current insurgency by ignoring the potential for one, though it was "an absolute certainty."

Retired Army Maj. General Paul D. Eaton, who criticized Mr. Rumsfeld in the New York Times last spring, said the post-invasion effort in Iraq is about 60,000 troops short of what it needs for success and that the Army "is in terrible shape," lacking proper equipment and resources.

President Bush should never have invaded Iraq, but whenever troops are deployed they should be at levels which are necessary to protect the civilian population -- an obligation military occupiers are required, under international law, to fulfill. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi women, men and children have become the casualties of incompetent planning.

4. FAILURE TO PROVIDE TROOPS IN IRAQ WITH SAFE DRINKING WATER.
Former Halliburton employees and army officials have testified before Congress that Halliburton provided our troops in Iraq with very contaminated water, which the troops used to shower, wash their hands and their faces, brush their teeth, wash their clothes, and sometimes even make coffee.

5. SENDING PART-TIME SOLDIERS FROM THE RESERVES AND NATIONAL GUARD ON DANGEROUS MISSIONS - SUCH AS ROADSIDE MINE SEARCHES - WITHOUT ANYTHING RESEMBLING ADEQUATE TRAINING.

6. FAILING TO CARE FOR RETURNING TROOPS.
The Knight Ridder News Service reported that the Government Accountability Office found that the Veterans Administration "badly underestimated how many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan might seek medical and other services, in part because of problems in getting accurate information from the Pentagon." Consequently many returning troops have had difficulty getting prompt medical attention.

7. FAILURE TO HELP VETERANS WITH POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD).
The Washington Post reports that a Government Accountability Office report concluded: "Nearly four in five service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were found to be at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were never referred by government clinicians for further help..."

8. FAILURE TO PROTECT SOLDIERS AND VETERANS FROM OFF-BASE SCAMS.
The New York Times reports that "several financial services companies or their agents are using questionable tactics on military bases to sell insurance and investments that may not fit the needs of people in uniform." USA TODAY reports that a Defense Department report said "the average borrower pays $827 on a $339 loan and called the lending predatory." A recently passed law will cap interest rates at 36 percent. The Defense Department should have cracked down on the corporate and economic predators that prey on military personnel and their families.

9. FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY PAY TROOPS WHEN ABROAD AND WHEN INJURED.
The Baltimore Sun reports that deployment in Iraq is "taking a financial toll on part-time soldiers who make up about half of the 150,000 troops there. Forty-one percent of National Guard and Reserve soldiers are losing thousands of dollars through a "pay gap" between their civilian salary and military pay..."

These inexcusable, contemptuous indifferences to the well-being of the soldiers, combined with the rush to wage an unnecessary, immoral and unconstitutional war, characterized by corrupt, wasteful contracting debacles of unprecedented proportions, should compel President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney not only to apologize, but to resign.


Bush Owes Troops Apology, Not Kerry
By Keith Olbermann

On the 22nd of May, 1856, as the deteriorating American political system veered toward the edge of the cliff, U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina shuffled into the Senate of this nation, his leg stiff from an old dueling injury, supported by a cane. And he looked for the familiar figure of the prominent senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Brooks found Sumner at his desk, mailing out copies of a speech he had delivered three days earlier - a speech against slavery.

The congressman matter-of-factly raised his walking stick in midair and smashed its metal point across the senator's head.

Congressman Brooks hit his victim repeatedly. Sen. Sumner somehow got to his feet and tried to flee. Brooks chased him and delivered untold blows to Sumner's head. Even though Sumner lay unconscious and bleeding on the Senate floor, Brooks finally stopped beating him only because his cane finally broke.

Others will cite John Brown's attack on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry as the exact point after which the Civil War became inevitable.

In point of fact, it might have been the moment, not when Brooks broke his cane over the prostrate body of Sen. Sumner - but when voters in Brooks' district started sending him new canes.

Tonight, we almost wonder to whom President Bush will send the next new cane.

There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame.

There is no line this president has not crossed - nor will not cross - to keep one political party in power.

He has spread any and every fear among us in a desperate effort to avoid that which he most fears - some check, some balance against what has become not an imperial, but a unilateral presidency.

And now it is evident that it no longer matters to him whether that effort to avoid the judgment of the people is subtle and nuanced or laughably transparent.

Sen. John Kerry called him out Monday.

He did it two years too late.

He had been too cordial - just as Vice President Gore had been too cordial in 2000, just as millions of us have been too cordial ever since.

Sen. Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education - that "if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you can get stuck in Iraq."

The senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable: Texas; the state of denial; stuck in Iraq. No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase - "appearing to be too stupid" - is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here.

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not "make the most of it," who do not "study hard," who do not "do their homework," and who do not "make an effort to be smart" might still just be stupid, but honest.

No, the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Sen. Kerry said to fit your political template; that you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario: that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush: You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political; to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn't about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either, that the insult, in fact, is you.

So now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans' deliberate distortions.

Thus, the president will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This president must apologize to the troops for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, "look like just a comma."

This president must apologize to the troops because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This president must apologize to the troops for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence at a banquet while our troops were in harm's way.

This president must apologize to the troops because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet them as liberators.

This president must apologize to the troops because his administration ran out of "plan" after barely two months.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

We will not receive them, of course.

This president never apologizes.

Not to the troops.

Not to the people.

Nor will those henchmen who have echoed him.

In calling him a "stuffed suit," Sen. Kerry was wrong about the press secretary.

Mr. Snow's words and conduct, falsely earnest and earnestly false, suggest he is not "stuffed," he is inflated.

And in leaving him out of the equation, Sen. Kerry gave an unwarranted pass to his old friend Sen. John McCain, who should be ashamed of himself tonight.

He rolled over and pretended Kerry had said what he obviously had not.

Only, the symbolic stick he broke over Kerry's head came in a context even more disturbing.

Mr. McCain demanded the apology while electioneering for a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.

He was speaking of how often he had been to Walter Reed Hospital to see the wounded Iraq veterans, of how "many of them have lost limbs."

He said all this while demanding that the voters of Illinois reject a candidate who is not only a wounded Iraq veteran, but who lost two limbs there, Tammy Duckworth.

Support some of the wounded veterans. But bad-mouth the Democratic one.

And exploit all the veterans and all the still-serving personnel in a cheap and tawdry political trick to try to bury the truth: that John Kerry said the president had been stupid.

And to continue this slander as late as this morning - as biased or gullible or lazy newscasters nodded in sleep-walking assent.

Sen. McCain became a front man in a collective lie to break sticks over the heads of Democrats - one of them his friend, another his fellow veteran, legless, for whom he should weep and applaud or at minimum about whom he should stay quiet.

That was beneath the senator from Arizona.

And it was all because of an imaginary insult to the troops that his party cynically manufactured out of a desperation and a futility as deep as that of Congressman Brooks, when he went hunting for Sen. Sumner.

This is our beloved country now as you have redefined it, Mr. Bush.

Get a tortured Vietnam veteran to attack a decorated Vietnam veteran in defense of military personnel whom that decorated veteran did not insult.

Or, get your henchmen to take advantage of the evil lingering dregs of the fear of miscegenation in Tennessee, in your party's advertisements against Harold Ford.

Or, get the satellites who orbit around you, like Rush Limbaugh, to exploit the illness - and the bipartisanship - of Michael J. Fox. Yes, get someone to make fun of the cripple.

Oh, and sir, don't forget to drag your own wife into it.

"It's always easy," she said of Mr. Fox's commercials - and she used this phrase twice - "to manipulate people's feelings."

Where on earth might the first lady have gotten that idea, Mr. President?

From your endless manipulation of people's feelings about terrorism?

"However they put it," you said Monday of the Democrats, on the subject of Iraq, "their approach comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses."

No manipulation of feelings there.

No manipulation of the charlatans of your administration into the only truth-tellers.

No shocked outrage at the Kerry insult that wasn't; no subtle smile as the first lady silently sticks the knife in Michael J. Fox's back; no attempt on the campaign trail to bury the reality that you have already assured that the terrorists are winning.

Winning in Iraq, sir.

Winning in America, sir.

There we have chaos - joint U.S.-Iraqi checkpoints at Sadr City, the base of the radical Shiite militias, and the Americans have been ordered out by the prime minister of Iraq … and our secretary of defense doesn't even know about it!

And here we have deliberate, systematic, institutionalized lying and smearing and terrorizing - a code of deceit that somehow permits a president to say, "If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one."

Permits him to say this while his plan in Iraq has amounted to a twisted version of the advice once offered to Lyndon Johnson about his Iraq, called Vietnam.

Instead of "declare victory and get out" we now have "declare victory and stay indefinitely."

And also here - we have institutionalized the terrorizing of the opposition.

True domestic terror:

Critics of your administration in the media receive letters filled with fake anthrax.

Braying newspapers applaud or laugh or reveal details the FBI wished kept quiet, and thus impede or ruin the investigation.

A series of reactionary columnists encourages treason charges against a newspaper that published "national security information" that was openly available on the Internet.

One radio critic receives a letter threatening the revelation of as much personal information about her as can be obtained and expressing the hope that someone will then shoot her with an AK-47 machine gun.

And finally, a critic of an incumbent Republican senator, a critic armed with nothing but words, is attacked by the senator's supporters and thrown to the floor in full view of television cameras as if someone really did want to re-enact the intent - and the rage - of the day Preston Brooks found Sen. Charles Sumner.

Of course, Mr. President, you did none of these things.

You instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax, nor undermine the FBI's case, nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times, nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller, nor beat up a man yelling at Sen. George Allen, nor have the first lady knife Michael J. Fox, nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.

No, you did not.

And the genius of the thing is the same as in King Henry's rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

All you have to do sir, is hand out enough new canes.